BOUCHON IN BEVERLY HILLS
One of the most amazing meals of my life was made by Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, a town in the Napa Valley, so when I heard that he was opening a Bouchon (another of his restaurants) in Beverly Hills, I did a happy dance in a pas de deux w/ my tongue.
Now, Chef Keller is a very busy man – what w/ The French Laundry, the Bouchons and Per Se in Manhattan and can’t be cooking in all his restaurants at all times… But one of the qualities of an excellent chef is the talent to recognize other great chefs, so he brought in Rory Hermann, formerly the Private Dining Chef at Per Se, to be the executive chef at Bouchon Beverly Hills.
One of the great things about getting older (well, there has to be one ‘great’ thing at least, right?) is that birthdays are often extended celebrations – sometimes for weeks. This year was no different when my dear friend Cindra took me for a belated b’day lunch at Bouchon.
I arrived a few minutes early, allowing me to absorb the bistro’s décor. Maroon velvet banquettes w/ nail head borders… tables covered w/ crisp white linen… a French ‘mosaic’ (sort of Aztec-y in design) tile floor… huge mottled mirrors w/ dark wooden frames behind the banquettes… a coffered ceiling w/ sky blue borders and a large rectangle chandelier… Burgundy ceramic pots stuffed w/ tall red gladiolas surrounded the room against buttery ‘sponged’ walls… There was a marble-top dark wood island station… brass sconces w/ globe shades… dark ‘bamboo’ café chairs w/ butterscotch leather seats and French themed whimsical murals near the ceiling’s trompe l’oeil border… and that’s just the restaurant’s main dining room… there’s also the bar and outdoor balcony seating decorated to ‘match.’ I loved it all!
Cindra arrived, and as we sipped our celebratory bloody Marys, we read the luncheon menu and the specials written on a blackboard above one of the banquettes…
… a leek & Roquefort cheese quiche sounded good or maybe the truite aux amandes (pan-roasted trout w/ haricots verts, almonds & beurre noisette)… ah, but there were moules au safran (Maine bouchot mussels steamed in white wine, mustard & saffron served w/ French fries – I love mussels!). Wait a minute - what about the saumon poele (pan-seared Scottish salmon salad w/ summer vegetables & mixed greens) or the terrine de foie gras de canard served w/ toasted baguette… or how about the Croque Madame, a grilled ham & cheese sandwich on brioche w/ a fried egg, mornay sauce & French fries (grilled cheese for grown-ups – I love grilled cheese)… the choices continued. What to order? What to order?
Then I saw it! Right there on the menu!!! Le Burger Bouchon (grilled prime beef burger on a homemade brioche bun w/ bibb lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, homemade butter pickles & French fries). If you’ve been reading my blog you know what I ordered. But a burger at Bouchon seemed almost sacrilegious! I mean, this was Bouchon! French! A Thomas Keller ‘child.’ But ever questing for superb burgers, I had to taste what Rory Hermann would do w/ one. Cindra, a fellow burger lover, joined me and we almost apologized when we ordered them. Were we ‘ugly food Americans’???
I told our waiter about my hunt around the country for each ‘town’s’ perfect burger and, I have to admit, biting into this wonderfully juicy patty topped w/ melted aged cheddar cheese was another reason for my tongue to do a happy dance except my mouth was too full. All the ‘healthy’ stuff I requested on ‘the side.’ I like my burger unadorned w/ garden ‘stuff’ – or anything really – it’s about tasting the meat and cheese, and this bare Bouchon burger was ‘best in show.’ The meat was delicious and cooked to my perfection (and the way the French like their beef)… rare – but not raw.
Hearing about my burger quest from our waiter, Chef Hermann joined us to find out my reaction. He’s a warm, very friendly man and when I told him how much I loved his burger meat, he explained that it’s his own blend of chuck, sirloin and brisket. Brisket! Who would have thought? We talked burgers and ground beef blends and about a few rival chefs. He’s a big fan of Nancy Silverton (and her restaurants) and is looking forward to her new burger joint opening in The Farmers’ Market.
It was time for my b’day dessert – 3 mini chocolate brownies shaped like wine corks w/ a crème anglaise and topped w/ ice cream. 2 die 4!
Thank you, Cindra.
I can’t wait to go back to Bouchon and try all those other dishes on the menu… I mean, you can’t have a burger every time. Or can you?!
235 No. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills CA 90210